An excerpt from an upcoming Yorkshire Publishing release: Spirit Warriors: Living in a Realm Between Fear and Faith by Dan Rooney
The chime of the seatbelt sign interrupted my “trip down nostalgia lane” as United 664 descended into Grand Rapids just before midnight. While I always remain open to the infinite possibilities that come with every journey, landing in Grand Rapids kicked off a succession of events that would permanently alter my life’s course. Taxiing to the gate the captain came over the speaker and made an announcement: “We have an American hero on board with us tonight.”
My thoughts immediately shifted to the soldier sitting in first class. What has he done?
After a long pause the captain continued, “We are carrying the remains of Army Corporal Brock Bucklin…and his twin brother, Corporal Brad Bucklin, has brought him all the way home from Iraq.”
My heart sank. My life and my values came suddenly rushing to the surface. I’d recently returned home from a tour of duty in Iraq thinking I’d left the death and destruction of the war behind. Tonight I realized I was wrong. It had followed me home.
The Captain went on to make a request. As a sign of respect he asked everyone to please remain seated until Brock Bucklin’s remains were removed from the aircraft. This was the least we could do as Americans to honor this young man and his family who had given everything for our country. For the next forty minutes I watched over the right-side of the plane as this hero’s ceremony unfolded before my eyes. The images enveloping the scene and the lives of the Bucklins forever burned into my soul.
The flash of emergency vehicles broke the night. It had been raining earlier and though the drizzle had already stopped the tears continued to fall, their gleam visible with every breach of blue light. The Bucklin family stood on the tarmac, holding each other, holding themselves, for warmth, as a shield against the pain. And then it came, conveyed from the belly of our 737, wrapped in a finely pressed, carefully placed five by nine swath of red, white, and blue by way of Dover Air Force Base...the meaning of sacrifice.
As Brock Bucklin's flag-draped casket descended the cargo hold ramp, inch by final inch, his four year old son Jacob, securely enveloped in the arms of his grandmother, could only watch, eyes fixed on the father who would never hold him again. Brock had given up that treasure, his very life, for the sake of every other father and son, in the name of the colors that now covered his body, his world all gone, so the rest of us can live free.
The dignified hands of the Honor Guard sheathed in brilliant white gloves shone in the darkness, raised in honor over the brave warrior’s remains. With them, the ungloved hands of Brad Bucklin, now on the tarmac from his first class seat, worked among them, gripping the remains of his brother’s casket in intimacy, fulfilling the pledge they had made. Brock had come home for the last time.